Consultant’s boss Nick Taylor berates rivals for 'shifting herds of people' as he declares 42% profit rise

The chief executive of consultant Waterman has said moving large numbers of staff to the Middle East is untenable for the sector.

Speaking after the company posted strong results for the year ended 30 June 2008, Nick Taylor said he would not copy his rivals by sending staff to the region as UK work slows. He said: “Shifting herds of people around the globe is a knee-jerk reaction to what’s happening in the market. When you move people you have to ask if they are the right people.”

He added: “It’s all very well sending 100 staff to the Middle East, but the problem is staff will only stay with you for three or four years before moving on. Then you’ve got upfront costs like a year’s rent in advance and problems with people leaving their families behind.”

Taylor said Waterman’s approach was to send small numbers to the Middle East – it has 200 people there at the moment – and do as much of the work as possible in the UK and Australia. The consultant’s UK arm handles 5% of its Middle East work and the Australia division does 15%.

Taylor said: “About 7% of our international income is from work done in the UK. That will grow to 15% by June 2009.”

Pre-tax profit at Waterman grew 42% from £5.2m to £7.4m, largely driven by overseas growth. Turnover was up 31% from £104m to £136m. About £44.3m was from overseas work (see chart left).

Graham Hiscocks, the firm’s finance director, said the company was comfortable with its gearing ratio of 34%. He said: “We will reduce our debt of £12.5m by £1m to £2m over the course of next year.”

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